Exhibitions — July 3, 2023

Tanja Engelberts at Les Rencontres d’Arles 2023

Group exhibition Here Near

Tanja Engelberts (NL), Mathieu Asselin (FR/VEN), Sheng-Wen Lo (TW)

On view from June 3 until 24 September, 2023

Here Near presents three projects on layered threats to the ecology of Arles and its surroundings. Since 2022, Mathieu Asselin, Tanja Engelberts and Sheng-Wen Lo have each worked on site-specific research. Charting manufacturing, water systems, transportation and animal life, these makers reveal how the Anthropocene – an unfolding geologic epoch characterized by humanity’s acceleration – is reflected in local ecosystems.

Tanja Engelberts works with the Rhône – a river transformed by its intersections with hydroelectric facilities and the chemical industry. Dead River sees Engelberts follow the Rhône to its source, the Rhône Glacier in Switzerland: what happens en route that makes the river unsuitable for swimming by the time it reaches Arles?

Inspired by Bruno Latour’s concept that laws and politics should not be centered only around people, but should respond to all things and life forms, Engelberts examines the Rhône River from an animistic point of view.

Throughout the summer of 2022, Engelberts followed the river from the Mediterranean to its source in Switzerland, charting its transformations, its journey, and its many voices. She tries to imagine what it’s like to be a fast-flowing river, slowly filling with Anthropocene-era artifacts over a 600-kilometer stretch. A landscape steeped in chemical waste, that’s slowly disappearing due to climate change. 

On the riverbanks of the Rhône, Engelberts found a clay-like substance that she decided to work with. Organic material and mechanical processes intertwine in Tanja’s work: the artist laser cuts photographs, creates reliefs, presses clay into them, and glazes her ceramic landscapes with clay from the Rhône.Where the Rhône has been subdued by hydraulic and nuclear technologies, Engelberts wanted to adopt a technical and distant approach to her own way of working.

For the video work ‘We Exhale’, Engelberts collaborated with sound artist Liz Harris to form sensitive soundscapes from ambient noise combined with field recordings. The river breathes out. Organic materials which fill the water are slowly broken down through chemical processes, creating carbon dioxide (CO). What sound does a river make when exhaling? Does this sound change as the river is poisoned, distorting and fading from its natural state?

Les Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles, France
Location 23. Monoprix
Boulevard Emile Combe, place Lamartine
13200 Arles
go to the festivals’s website